Much has been written recently about the trend in Christian circles to focus on the wrath and punishment of God. Probably the best the analysis so far is Matthew Paul Turner’s “Praise God From Whom All Evil and Suffering Flows?” I honestly don’t know much about Turner, but his nuanced examination of the issue (if you read to the end) really reflects the true difficulties that are present in scripture – nuances that many evangelicals frequently gloss over.
I am sure at some point some semi-Calvinist is going to come out in defense of the song saying that the critics are missing the meaning of the word “though”, because it is supposed to mean something more along the lines of “I know ___ will never ever happen, but if it somehow did I still would ____” Fair enough, but I would still direct those responses back to Turner’s post that also deals with the idea of thinking something could happen, even if you are convinced it won’t.
On the flip side, several people have come out and said that Jesus does not preach any kind of violence against humanity – whether slaying, smiting, or raping of any kind. We should be glad that God practices what Jesus preaches, as some say. But to be truthful, if God did practice what Jesus preached, the entire human race would have all of our eyeballs poked out and all of our hands and feet cut off. Jesus had his fair share of problematic, disturbing teachings that we can’t just gloss over so easily.
Ultimately, the Bible is not very clear on whether God causes hurricanes, violence, and strife, or allows them to happen, or just set the world in motion and bad things happen randomly. Different people find comfort in different possibilities because people are all different. I think we should be careful to tell people that they don’t serve a God worth loving if they believe in, say, an ultra-violent John Piper view of God. Personally, I don’t get why people like Piper find comfort in his own views, but he does. Calvinism’s big problem is not where it finds comfort (because we are all wired slightly differently in that respect), but that it does not allow room for others to have an equally valid source of comfort in a different view of God that is just as based on valid interpretations of difficult Biblical concepts as Calvinists feels theirs is.
But to those in the Calvinist persuasion that do want to focus on Job 13:15 and declare “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”… can I point out that God comes to the scene in Job chapters 38-39 and rebukes Job for this attitude? So even if you can put together a string of verse interpretations to prove that God causes disaster and violence, I can show you several places (not only Job) where God disagrees with those that try to prove this line of reasoning. That may not be a strong enough denial from God for some of you, but I think it at least speaks volumes to where our focus should be.
Look, God created death. We will all die. But God does not see death as this bleak ending or horrible separation. It is a transfer from one state of existence to another. And the specifics are vague. But ultimately we will all die. So in a way God is responsible for the largest genocide of all time – the death of the entire human race.
Or does it sound “icky” to use genocide in that context? Good – it should. Its applying a human concept to the work of God. That’s part of the problem. Humans came along and invented disaster. We invented rape. We invented murder. We invented unjust systems that lead some to starve and others to murder. We moved to places were natural events like hurricanes could kill us. We made all of these decisions to put ourselves in harms way. As science advances, we even find out more and more about how our decisions lead to cancer. We make these bad decisions as human beings that not only harm ourselves but others, and then we try to figure out if God caused it to happen or allowed it or not? Our logic is seriously flawed.